Recipe of the Month: Cristoni with Sautéed Nettles

Gail Julius, a Lummi Tribal member and Northwest Indian College Traditional Plants & Foods Program Assistant (part of the Cooperative Extension Office), has committed to providing the community with a healthy recipe each month.

This month she is giving readers a modern recipe that uses a traditional food: nettles. She has also provided some tips for harvesting the potentially painful produce.

“Let’s take the ‘sting’ out of nettles and get healthy now – go nettle crazy this spring and enjoy the benefits of its valuable nutrients,” Julius said. “Stinging nettles are an excellent source of nutrients, and with so many delicious recipes, you cannot go wrong including nettles in almost any dish or drink you can think of.”

Nettles are considered a super food and are high in mineral content, vitamins and amino acids, Julius said. They help bring your body back to a state of balance. 

For food the leaves are used, but the whole plant can be used, she said. The stem is fibrous and has been used for fishnets, ropes, and clothing. It’s also used as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis – just put stinging nettle directly on inflamed joints.

HARVESTING TIPS
Nettles come out in the early spring and are best harvested from March to May. It is best to harvest early in the morning – that’s when the medicinal properties are most potent. Harvest your nettles using rubber gloves and a pair of scissors and place cut nettles in any paper or reusable bag. Harvest with good intention, and last, but not least, have a good time.

TOTAL PREPARATION AND COOK TIME: 35 minutes
MAKES: 25 to 30 pieces

PREPARING YOUR NETTLES

INGREDIENTS
• 1 pound stinging nettles
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large shallot (petite onions), sliced thinly lengthwise
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 cup water
• Zest of 1 medium lemon
• Juice of 1/2 medium lemon

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Wearing thick rubber gloves, clean the nettles by soaking them several times under cold running water, then drain. Separate the tender leaves from the tough stems, discarding the stems.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the shallots have softened, about 2 minutes more.
3. Using tongs, add half of the nettles and the water to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the nettles have begun to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining nettles and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes more. If the pan becomes too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time.
4. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and then put sautéed nettles aside.

PREPARING YOUR BREAD AND SPREAD

INGREDIENTS
• 1 baguette or French bread, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
• Salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup fresh ricotta, or light cream cheese
• Sautéed Stinging Nettles, coarsely chopped

PREPARATION
1. Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted and crisp, about 8 minutes. Let cool.
2. Lightly brush each baguette slice with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Spread about a 1/4-inch layer of ricotta or cream cheese over each slice of bread. Season with salt and pepper and top with nettles. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Wash down your appetizer (or any meal you create) with a fresh glass of nettle tea (hot or cold). Just steep nettles for at least 20 minutes and add a mint leaf for flavor.

For more information, contact Vanessa Cooper at vcooper@nwic.edu or (360) 392-4343 or Gail Julius at gjulius@nwic.edu or (360) 595-4396.